Covid Scotland: 'Hammer blow' for businesses as events cancelled and table service returns

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Businesses in Scotland will suffer “another hammer blow” as new restrictions come into force after Christmas, industry leaders have said.

Large-scale events will be cancelled from December 26 and new rules will enforce social distancing at hospitality and leisure services.

Events will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 seated, and 500 people seated or standing outdoors.

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Venues serving alcohol will be forced to return to table service, and hospitality and leisure businesses will be required to keep a one metre distance between different groups of customers.

A customer sits with his beer in Jackson's Bar in the city centre of Glasgow on October 8, 2020. Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty ImagesA customer sits with his beer in Jackson's Bar in the city centre of Glasgow on October 8, 2020. Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images
A customer sits with his beer in Jackson's Bar in the city centre of Glasgow on October 8, 2020. Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce called the new rules a “hammer blow” for employers and Scotland’s economy.

“Some businesses and sectors will view this update as the equivalent of receiving a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking, further compounding the downturn in trade they have experienced in the crucial run-up to the festive period,” said chief executive Dr Liz Cameron.

Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said the announcement could be the “knock-out blow” for many in the “battered and bruised” licensed hospitality sector.

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Mr Wilkinson also called for financial support to be specifically directed to the businesses most affected, saying it was “utterly indefensible” that cafes and fast food and takeaway outlets would have access to this funding as well as premises serving alcohol.

Some £375 million has been set aside for business support, Ms Sturgeon said, including £200m from within the Scottish Government’s budget and an additional £175m from the Treasury.

The First Minister again urged the UK Government to release more funding, saying a fresh announcement on Tuesday did not constitute any new money.

A UK Government source said the Treasury has provided the Scottish Government with “an extra £440m to give certainty when needed the most.”

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“We are determined to work with the Scottish Government to overcome the Omicron threat and the situation is constantly under review,” they said.

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Small businesses will face a “gruelling” winter and spring, the Federation of Small Businesses said.

"The measures outlined today will make trading drastically more difficult for huge numbers of small businesses in Scotland,” policy chair Andrew McRae said.

"The social distancing restrictions will mean shops and hospitality firms can serve fewer customers. And the changes to events, such as sports matches and Hogmanay celebrations, will have a knock-on impact on local economies.

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“After a disappointing festive trading period, these moves will heap pressure on local firms and the self-employed. The same group of businesses that took the greatest hit earlier in the crisis now face another gruelling winter and spring.

"These operators now face tough decisions about whether they open their doors with restrictions in place or stop trading until they’re lifted."

Pub-goers group the Campaign for Real Ale said the new rules would make it “extremely difficult” for pubs to make ends meet.

"Together with advice for people to ‘stay in’ from December 27, our pubs and breweries are going to find it hard to turn a profit, especially as the Christmas trade that they rely on to get through the first few months of the year has evaporated as a result of government advice and a collapse in consumer confidence,” said director Joe Crawford.

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